A veteran of 50 marathons, Joe Wasserman also has enjoyed success as a race director. Under his stewardship, the number of runners participating in the Howard County Striders' Metric Marathon grew by 300 percent.
But the Bagel Run is the race that's closest to Wasserman's stomach . . . er, heart. He is its organizer, overseer and cheerleader.
Every Saturday morning at 7, he and between 30 and 150 runners take off from the Village of Wilde Lake in Columbia for informal runs of between 4 and 16 miles. Later, after optional showers at the Columbia Swim Club, the runners gather for camaraderie and breakfast at the Bagel Shoppe in the Village of Wilde Lake -- a 13-year-old ritual.
"When it [Bagel Run] first started, the only people who did the run would come out to do a long run," Wasserman, 50, says. "The Bagel Shoppe didn't open until '82 or '83. We used to go to Roy Rogers afterward, but then one day someone came in with an article about the harmful effects of cholesterol and we had to change our dietary habits."
Saturday, a group of 30 took off from the Wilde Lake parking lot behind Feet First. The runners included Geriann Bell, who was among the top 25 women in this year's Constellation Classic. On this day, she would do 10 miles in 68 minutes, 30 seconds.
Mike Buckley, Rick Hatfield, Chris Nugent and Dave Tripp chose to go 16.7 miles and came back just under an hour and three-quarters.
"Those guys really blast the course," Wasserman says.
Buckley, Hatfield, the current Metric Marathon director, and Tripp, "the father of Howard County running," are from Columbia, but Nugent journeys from Silver Spring every Saturday.
"I think he comes for the bagels," Wasserman says.
The main course is 15.75 miles, but there are chutes off that if runners want to increase their distance. A lot of the participants go out and back on the first leg of the course,which is 8.4 miles.
"There are four popular distances," Wasserman says. "The biggest turnout for the race is in the fall when people are getting ready for the marathon season."
But hard work aside, the runners never let their training get in the way of a good time.
"When Dave Tripp had his 50th birthday, he had 150 people come out," Wasserman says. "People came out of the woodwork. I guess we've had about 10 or 15 birthday runs. We've had them for 30, 40 and 50th [birthdays]. We haven't had
a 60th yet."